Maintaining Skin Health Under a Mask

by Kristina Holey

 

Having a problem with breakouts from masks, or other skin health issues? You’re not alone. Wearing a mask in public per the CDC’s guidelines is the right thing to do to help curb the spread of Covid-19, but it can wreak havoc on the skin—many of us have started experiencing dermatitis and acne in the areas covered by our masks. 

The issue is not necessarily that wearing masks are creating new symptoms—though that could be true if you are experiencing extremely dry or raw skin—but more that the skincare routines you may have relied upon to suppress these symptoms are no longer working in the new environment masks have created on the skin. 

If you have been using topicals, products with sterilizing or microcidal ingredients, skin-stripping cleansers, or frequent exfoliation to manage breakouts, you are extra vulnerable. Because while these efforts may have been keeping your skin clear in the short term, they have also compromised your skin’s barrier layer and depleted its natural defense system by killing the commensal bacteria that help keep your skin healthy. (You can read more about supporting the skin's microbiome here.)

The new ecosystem masks create on our face — a dark and moist environment that is high in CO2 and low in O2 — is prime for the proliferation of pathogens. Heat and stress further exacerbate the issue, as do masks made with synthetic fibers and other occlusive materials that touch the skin continuously. 

The best way to protect your skin against pathogens is to begin supporting the function of your skin instead of stripping it (and disrupting the microbiome in the process). That way you are setting your skin up to function optimally, which will promote a thriving defense system, which will protect you from unwanted symptoms.

Read on for our suggestions for preventing acne and other skin problems from masks. You can also watch a video of a talk I did on this topic on Marie Veronique’s YouTube channel.

Choosing a Mask

If you’re not in a hospital setting and/or you don’t need to wear an N95 mask, we suggest choosing a mask with natural fibers that are breathable and washable, such as high thread count cotton or a mixture of cotton and silk. Natural silk or silk hybrid (silk + cotton) is also a good choice as silk can reduce surface friction, is hydrophobic, and is naturally breathable and antimicrobial.

Skincare for Mask Wearing

To compensate for the new stressors resulting from wearing protective equipment on the face, here is our suggested regimen.

  1. Use an oil face cleanser. Oil cleansers such as our Pure + E.O. Free Oil Cleanser will influence the sebum deep in the pores, thoroughly cleaning them while avoiding removal of the lipid layer and stripping of the skin. Over time, and with regular usage, congestion should be reduced and the skin should feel nourished and supple. It is particularly important in arid environments to maintain lipid integrity to prevent dehydration and inflammatory conditions.

  2. Balance your skin. Our Balancing HypoTonic was strategically formulated to balance pH levels, support immune function, deeply hydrate the skin, and balance the microbiome. We find that when you are experiencing breakouts and inflammation from the new mask protocols, it helps to use this tonic before putting your mask on and immediately after removing it. This will help reset the acid mantle/bacteria on the skin and prevent infections and breakouts.
    • If you are experiencing a lot of breakouts/redness/dermatitis from the mask, try adding a few drops of tea tree oil to the mixture.
    • If you are experiencing oiliness, congestion, and active breakouts, you can also use our Treatment Mist to help reduce inflammation and rebalance oil production as well as prevent/treat post-inflammatory pigmentation.
  • Replenish your skin’s barrier. Our Barrier Restore Serum restores balance to the skin’s natural moisturizing factor (NMF), replenishing the skin’s barrier with essential nutrients that plump cells and even the texture of the skin. This serum is appropriate for all skin types to ensure optimization of skin function. We suggest layering it over the entire face under your oil or moisturizer to protect the barrier of the skin from the mask. Once you are home and have cleansed your skin, you can apply this serum again to help rebalance NMF overnight.

  • Protect your skin. Using oil is important to protect the skin and support the lipid layer function. If you have breakout-prone skin, our Treatment Oil will help keep your pores clear and target unwanted bacteria. If your skin is normal or dry, our Barrier Lipid Complex contains ceramides and cholesterols to seal in hydration/moisture of the skin and prevent dehydration and irritation on the skin from rubbing against the mask.

  • Use a yoghurt mask. As often as you can, apply a full-fat, plain yoghurt mask after cleansing for 30 minutes, then rinse. This will provide gentle exfoliation, moisture, and beneficial bacteria. If you are experiencing breakouts, use a combination of yoghurt and Manuka honey.  
 

    Have a question or need more information about how this applies to your specific skin concerns? You can email us for personalized advice from our estheticians, or browse our Product Recommendations.